Friday, February 17, 2006

Ornamental Kales for Fall Color

Ornamental CabbageOrnamental cabbage, or flowering kales, are wonderful plants to add color to the fall landscape. Not only are the plants great for outstanding color, but the leaves can serve as a garnish or edible underlay on salad platters.

The blue-green leaves are showy and open from the center; centers are usually white or tinged with pink, red, or purple. Using two different cultivars provides contrast and interest in a planting. Plant as a massed planting or use as specimen plants.

Kale is tolerant of cold temperatures, and is especially sweet, following a light frost. Production is mainly from Norfolk, Virginia to Long Island, New York where it can be spread over a long, mild winter season. Smaller production areas are scattered throughout the U. S. The ornamental cabbages look much the same as an edible cabbage, while the kales tend to have a more unfolded, fancy or cut leaf.

Flowering KaleThere are two main planting times for ornamental cabbage, and kale, in the fall. The first is late August through September (about the same time as fall garden mums); the second is after garden mums have finished flowering or have been frosted out, usually mid- to late October. Plants may also be set out in the spring and allowed to grow in place for nearly a year.

Generally, plants range from 10"-15" in height. They grow best in full sun, and moist, well-drained, soil. Low nitrogen rates will increase foliage coloration.

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